John F. "Jack" Spencer, CEO of the embattled New Jersey School Construction Corp. announced Aug. 18 that he would step down from that position as of Sept. 7 after a stormy two-year-term that saw the agency weather strong criticism about its progress and methods, but one that completed 30 new schools, has 43 currently under construction, and 59 more projects in the pipeline in the mission to meet a court mandate to repair or replace the state's most decrepit schools.
|NJ school construction chief Jack Spencer announced his resignation. (Photo by Guy Lawrence for ENR)|
Despite the track record, Spencer faced the ire of New Jersey school districts and politicians who alleged that SCC was overspending and not efficientlyl managing the $6 billion appropriated by the state to fund the building program in 31 of its poorest school districts and another $2.6 billion for work in wealthier districts. Those concerns were amplified last month when SCC announced it would not have sufficient funding to complete construction of all originally planned school projects. The agency was hoping for a cash infusion from the legislature.
Spencer had indicated in some published reports that he was considering a position with the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center, an agency created by New York Gov. George Pataki to oversee and coordinate all construction—public and private—that was planned in and around Ground Zero. Spencer spent 33 years as an engineer for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, rising to deputy chief engineer. He retired from the agency in 2003 to join SCC.
But on Aug. 19, Spencer told ENR that he was "withdrawing" his name from consideration for the lower Manhattan job. He did not indicate the reason for his decision or elaborate further.
SCC announced Aug. 24 that it had appointed agency Chief Financial Officer Peter E. Maricondo, a utility executive who joined SCC in May to better monitor the agency's financial affairs, as the new temporary CEO. Observers say that filling the politically controversial post on a permanent basis will not likely happen until after New Jersey's gubernatorial election in November. Democrat Jon Corzine will face Republican Douglas Forrester.
Spencer says he is undecided about his future plans but will devote himself to SCC improvements as his tenure ends. "There is no doubt that the job has had its challenges, but that the rewards of building state-of-the-art schools for the children of New Jersey have far outweighed them," he says. “But our work is not yet complete, and there is much more to do. I have an aggressive agenda set for my final three weeks, and I look forward to working with staff and the SCC Board of Directors in getting the job done.”